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Dustin LindenSmith

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Latest Spiritual Chicks newsletter

I really dig these women. They have a way with words which allows them to express very esoteric concepts in regular language, and I believe in language which is largely bereft of an objective stance "one way or the other" that could alienate anyone. Their most recent newsletter, which sits on the front page of their website whenever updated, is concerned with what we should do when we perceive that there are problems in the world. Anyone such as myself who has been caught up in the injustice of this or that situation might benefit from their description of "divine indifference." Further context is set through the excellent insight of how the One is manifest through the Many, and how every manifestation that we see (good or bad) has an equal right to exist by sheer virtue of the fact that it does exist. Anyway, it's a great article:
Subject: If everything is from the divine, does that mean I have to accept what I feel is wrong?

To most of us spiritual seekers, the idea that there is one underlying essence in the universe that permeates everything is extremely comforting. When things don't go our way, we say to ourselves, I'm not running the world, and the earth needs rain just as much as it needs sunshine. From this vantage point life's rainy days are a lot easier to accept, and perhaps even become enjoyable.

But somewhere along our path of "loving what is" (as Byron Katie puts it), we come across something so miserable, so objectionable that it's very existence makes us feel criticism, anger, condemnation, fear--all those things that separate us from our source. Our source, this One Life essence, is all powerful and all knowing, so how can we criticize how it expresses itself? Yet, at the same time, it doesn't feel very spiritual to ignore all the problems of the world or those around us. The trick to perfecting this balancing act between acceptance and right action is what many spiritual teachers, including Dr. Thurman Fleet, the founder of Concept-Therapy, call "divine indifference." While this term might seem a bit of a contradiction in itself, it's actually a beautifully succinct description of what it is to know the ONE as it expresses itself through the MANY. Here's how it works.

First, if we accept the One Life Principle we know that there is a single power expressing itself through an infinite number of equally valid forms. By valid we mean they all have a right to exist because they do exist! It's that simple. Each form directs the expression of the divine according to its beliefs, ideas and genetic code. We don't expect rocks to express themselves as trees, so we shouldn't expect Republicans to express themselves as Democrats, the French to express themselves as Americans, musicians to express themselves as carpenters, or murderers to express themselves as saints, or vice versa. That's the thing about life. We are each designed to play a different role, and it is each person's job to play that role well, even if it is the most despicable role by most people's standards.

So, do we just let the despicable do their thing? Divine indifference tells us simply to act in the interest of the One as best we can. It's OK to be discerning, in fact it's quite necessary in life, but our judgment should be as free from selfish interest as possible. If someone is encroaching on our well being, we have the right to stick up for ourselves--it's our responsibility to the One to take care of ourselves so that we can contribute to life. But again, when our motives are free from selfish interest, we're not dragged down by wounded pride or resentment. Similarly, if someone in our charge is not acting appropriately, we can meet it head on with firmness and compassion. And if we have a vision of how to help evolve the world consciousness we can go forth with a determination that is not slowed by our criticism or hatred of even the most "despicable" forms we meet along the way, and really make a difference. But again, each of us can only do this to the limit of our beliefs at any given time. The stories of Jesus and Buddha are examples of what it is to act on pure faith with little or no selfish interest, while Hitler is an example of the opposite extreme. Most of us are somewhere in between!

In our culture, indifference is often equated with apathy or not caring. But from a spiritual point of view, it liberates us from the influences of people, places, situations and things, and allows us to act in accordance with our highest wisdom--that voice within each of us that questions everything but condemns nothing. Then we are free to align ourselves with divinity in its highest form. This is divine indifference.

--Karen Weissman and Tami Coyne

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vyoma June 19th, 2003
I was going along with this just fine until this statement cropped up:
But somewhere along our path of "loving what is" (as Byron Katie puts it), we come across something so miserable, so objectionable that it's very existence makes us feel criticism, anger, condemnation, fear--all those things that separate us from our source. Our source, this One Life essence, is all powerful and all knowing, so how can we criticize how it expresses itself?
That's a pretty big hole in their theology. If everything is a manifestation of the divine, then anger and criticism are manifestations of the divine as well. They can't separate us from "the One" anymore than the things we feel the anger and criticism toward can by themselves.

A lot of New Age thinkers slam into this wall and then try to gloss over it, but it's as big a problem as the old question of whether God can make a stone so big that He can't lift it. You've got to be careful with people who try to gloss over the question, because all too often it's criticism toward their own thinking that they're attempting to ignore, and I don' think that's a productive thing.

Critical thought, anger, all these sorts of allegedly negative things are precisely manifestations of the same divine intellect that gave rise to Virabhadra, Bhairava, the Mahavidya, Aghora, etc. Ruling that some aspect of the divine isn't an aspect of the divine because it "feels" negative or counter-productive is to admit that there are some things which aren't aspects of Shiva, and that's to be caught in the same irreconcilable problem of purity and impurity that Brahminism has never been able to resolve.

See, New Age religions want people to regress to a very passive state. They may call it "calm" or "centering" or what have you, but its really passivity. Yet divinity isn't purely passive. It creates, maintains, and destroys. The thing isn't to become passive, but to utilize whatever aspects comprise the apparent individual effectively. Anger can be a useful thing. So can suffering. So can tranquility. To remain tranquil while your child is on fire would be useless and terrible. To remain passive while your spouse is being stabbed to death is a terrible thing. The aspects of the divine sometimes work at corss-purposes, it seems, like when Daksha held the feast and didn't invite Shiva, and so Shiva sent his aspect called Virabhadra to destroy the feast and cut off Daksha's head. Shiva could have remained passive, but he didn't. There was some other part of the lila, the unknown dance, that needed to be played out at that moment. Sometimes, it's like that with us, too. Sometimes we can be Shankara, and that's good, and that's what's needed, and sometimes we can be Virabhadra, and that's good, and that's what's needed, too.

If Bhairava hadn't engaged with the world to cut off Brahma's head, there'd be no world at all. Sometimes by not acting in a way which seems unacceptable according to someone else's standards, we are leaving something important undone. Maybe we're depriving someone else of the potential to fulfill themselves by refusing to take a step back from what is otherwise a noble ideal. But then, maybe by doing that thing, we better fulfill ourselves, too.

iamom June 19th, 2003
Well sure, but I don't think that what they wrote here is in contradiction to what you're saying. You're raising important points, though. It is too easy (and perhaps overly common among New Agers) to express a preference for the sweet and gentle and peaceful in life, which essentially negates the value of apparently negative events or emotions in life (along with the potential we have for growth in experiencing them).

I take their description of divine indifference NOT to mean that we should sit idly by and passively ignore the bad stuff that's happening, but rather to engage in life to the fullest extent we're individually capable, addressing what really needs to be addressed with ourselves, out of a non-egoic self-interest that arises naturally in each moment.

Granted, "non-egoic self-interest" might sound like an oxymoron, but I think it's a legitimate state of mind. It comes from action which is naturally motivated by the events of the current moment; that is to say, action which is not taken in support of any personal ideal or philosophy, but action which arises naturally as a result of what needs to be done in any given moment.

Does that interpretation line up any more closely with how feel about it?


vyoma June 20th, 2003
It would... but it still doesn't jibe with the idea that anger and criticism are things that "separate us from the Source." Non-egoic self interest notwithstanding, that idea still means that there are things that can seperate us from the Source, and thus aren't from that Source itself. If so, then what's their origin?

chaizzilla June 20th, 2003
criticism, anger, condemnation, fear--all those things that separate us from our source. Our source, this One Life essence, is all powerful and all knowing, so how can we criticize how it expresses itself?

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